Connectionist holistic parsing offers a viable and attractive alternative to traditional algorithmic parsers. With exposure to a limited subset of grammatical sentences and their corresponding parse trees only, a holistic parser is capable of learning inductively the grammatical regularity underlying the training examples that affects the parsing process. In the past, various connectionist parsers have been proposed. Each approach had its own unique characteristics, and yet some techniques were shared in common. In this article, various dimensions underlying the design of a holistic parser are explored, including the methods to encode sentences and parse trees, whether a sentence and its corresponding parse tree share the same representation, the use of confluent inference, and the inclusion of phrases in the training set. Different combinations of these design factors give rise to different holistic parsers. In succeeding discussions, we scrutinize these design techniques and compare the performances of a few parsers on language parsing, including the confluent preorder parser, the backpropagation parsing network, the XERIC parser of Berg (1992), the modular connectionist parser of Sharkey and Sharkey (1992), Reilly's (1992) model, and their derivatives. Experiments are performed to evaluate their generalization capability and robustness. The results reveal a number of issues essential for building an effective holistic parser.

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